5 Times Billy Corgan Said Reunions Were Bullshit

By: Noah Yoo

Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan in 1`992, photo by Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

The Smashing Pumpkins are the latest rockers to bring back their classic lineup for a reunion tour. As announced yesterday, founding members Billy Corgan, James Iha, and Jimmy Chamberlin are hitting the road for the first time since 2000, on a tour celebrating the band’s 30th anniversary. According to a press release, the shows “will highlight music from the group’s inception through 2000, and will exclusively feature material from their groundbreaking debut Gish through Siamese Dream, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Adore, and Machina.” (Original bassist D’arcy Wretzky is not involved, following much back-and-forth drama.)

At this point, there generally isn’t much shame in shutting up and playing the hits—it makes everyone, from the fans to the booking agents, overjoyed, and pretty much every band is doing it. But in the case of the Smashing Pumpkins, it’s hard not to remember all the times over the course of the past decade that Corgan has explicitly shit on other bands doing exactly what he is now doing.

Here, then, are five of Corgan’s most notable burns-turned-self-owns:

“The Pumpkins won’t be a nostalgia act, we refuse to be.”

In an interview from 2011, Corgan resolutely stated, “The Pumpkins won’t be a nostalgia act, we refuse to be.” He added, “That would be the true death of the Smashing Pumpkins. I’ve said to people in the business—we won’t go out and make money by playing Siamese Dream in full. We’re not operating with that safety net. That isn’t an option. That’s off the table.”

Soundgarden are “just out there to have one more round at the till”

Corgan lambasted “greatest hits” acts during a 2012 press conference, specifically taking aim at Soundgarden. “There are those bands that are essentially coming back only to make money – playing their old albums, and maybe somewhere in the back of their minds they’re thinking there might be a future… I am not in that business, obviously. I condemn anybody who’s in that business but doesn’t admit [he’s] in that business. When Soundgarden came back and they just played their old songs, great. I was a fan of Soundgarden, but call it for what it is. They’re just out there to have one more round at the till; same with Pavement and these other bands.”

Corgan went on, “Without the young fans, there is no future for Smashing Pumpkins. We can’t run an oldies business. Not only is it boring, it’s actually not a very good business.”

On Pavement: “Maybe that’s why they were obsessed with integrity, because they didn’t have any.”

Then there’s this excerpt from a video interview with Fuse, presented without comment:

My point of having a problem with nostalgia acts for the artist that are from the grunge generation is, it basically subverts the original meaning of the grunge generation of music, which was rebellion. Basically, everyone in their 40s are all just phoning it in. Let’s call it for what it is. Maybe they’ll put out one new song on the greatest hits album but it’s not really getting back on the horse…

No better case than Pavement: Complaining about me in the ’90s, now out doing the greatest hits tour. Why? Ka-ching, cashing in. Maybe that’s why they were obsessed with integrity, because they didn’t have any. We play just as many old songs as any other band. And we should; we have some great songs from the past and I understand people come to the shows, they want to hear those songs too. But if that is the story, then I’m dead as an artist and there’s no future for my band, so what the fuck am I doing standing there? I’m nothing but a rodeo clown doing the act from 25 years ago. That’s not why I got into this, and I don’t like that expectation. As far as I’m concerned, fuck that expectation.

“Anybody who calls us a nostalgia show does not know what the fuck they are talking about.”

2015 saw Corgan take Smashing Pumpkins on the road alongside Marilyn Manson for a co-headlining tour, to the delight of ’90s alt-rock enthusiasts everywhere. Of course, he clarified that this was not him succumbing to sentimentalism. “Anybody who calls us a nostalgia show does not know what the fuck they are talking about. Seriously,” he told Rolling Stone. “I mean, [Manson] has just released one of the best albums of his career, and my last two albums were super highly reviewed and well received, so they don’t know what the fuck they are talking about.”

“You don’t really believe in rock‘n’roll”

Corgan also decried fans that love “greatest hits” tours during a press conference around the Manson tour. “Why people go to a show isn’t to hear a ‘greatest hits’ record, they go to a show to see something that says, ‘There’s a reason I’m in this particular spot on this night to see this person or these people.’ If you don’t believe in that, you don’t really believe in rock‘n’roll. You don’t really believe in the stuff that we believe in.” He continued, “If you don’t believe in that, you’re not really a fan, you’re a curator of a library and we just happen to be one of the books in the fucking library. I’m just not into that vibe. I reject that.”

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